Independent Counsel Ken Starr's Statement The Press
April 16, 1998
STARR: Good afternoon.
I have two brief comment -- two brief comments. They...
The first is just a while ago, I sent a letter to Attorney
General Reno that responds to the letter that I received last
week from the deputy attorney general of the United States.
In that letter, which I will only briefly describe, we
suggest that we seek mechanisms that will ensure a full
investigation of the facts in a fair way and a comprehensive way
that will promote public confidence in the administration of
justice, and that we explore that in a careful and thoughtful
way with the Justice Department.
That letter will be publicly available to you. I do not
typically make my correspondence public when I'm communicating
with the Justice Department, but inasmuch as the deputy attorney
general's letter was made public, I thought it appropriate for
the American people to be fully cognizant of our response.
The second comment is that I have sent a letter to my friend,
the distinguished president of Pepperdine University indicating
and confirming my withdrawal as dean of the two schools, the
School of Law and the new School of Public Policy.
I have set that forth in a letter, which speaks for itself
and I think it behooves me just to refer to the letter itself.
"Dear David, With..." Again, this is to David
Davenport (ph), the president of Pepperdine. "With profound
regret, I am writing to confirm my decision communicated to you
by telephone on April 2, 1998, to withdraw as dean-designate of
the School of Law at Pepperdine University, and my earlier
decision, communicated by telephone on March 19, 1998, to
withdraw as dean-designate of the newly-formed School of Public
As you know, I had eagerly looked forward to spending many
happy years at Pepperdine after completing my duties as
independent counsel. The work of that office, however, has
expanded considerably, and the end is not yet in sight.
The university graciously offered to hold the position open
for me. But as we have discussed -- and I should amplify, as we
have discussed on more than one occasion -- including with Steve
Limley (ph), the very able Provost of Pepperdine, I believe that
an academic institution should not operate for more than one
year without permanent leadership. And because circumstances
will prevent my being on board by the conclusion of the spring
term, it is proper for me to withdraw, leaving the university
time to have a new dean in place before the next academic year
And I would just amplify in that respect that what I had
communicated to David in a series of conversations by telephone
-- I haven't had the good fortune of being out in Malibu lately
-- that I understood full well the need to provide assurance
that I would be on board and in service no later than August 1,
so that the academic year for the two institutions could begin
in earnest with its new dean in place.
You may have questions.
QUESTION: Judge Starr...
QUESTION: Judge Starr, (OFF-MIKE)
STARR: Well, the...
STARR: Well, the issue of public confidence is a very
important one, and I owe it to the American people to seek the
facts, to seek them fairly, to seek them comprehensively, to try
to assess with the grand jury's work, to assess those facts, and
to treat individuals in the process with both dignity and
respect for their human rights.
It is an extraordinary situation to conduct an investigation
which, by its nature, given our traditions and the law is to be
secret under the circumstances that have attended this
investigation. But we're seeking in every way that we can to
make sure that the investigation moves forward very quickly,
very comprehensively, very fairly.
STARR: I'm sorry -- excuse me, Mr. Jackson.
QUESTION: Will you be submitting a report to Congress of
some kind this summer? In the next couple of months?
STARR: Bob, I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the
report. I think everyone knows that the Independent Counsel
Statute imposes a duty on any independent counsel to report to
the Congress under certain circumstances. But I have said that
I should not comment on that, and I continue to be of the view
that our job is to assess the facts and then to live up to our
QUESTION: Mr. Starr, do you believe (OFF-MIKE)
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) some sense of the progress that's been
made in the Lewinsky investigation? Are you 50 percent through?
More than that?
STARR: It's very difficult to put a percentage, but our
level of activity has been extremely high.
I would say it's been extraordinarily high. And the
grand jury here in this jurisdiction has been asked to sit
additional days. My colleague, who is with me, Bob Bitman (ph),
deputy independent counsel, works closely on the day-to-day
operations of the investigation and the grand jury.
And I would simply say that we are very satisfied with the
progress which we have made, which is substantial. I know you
are anxious to follow up, but let me just say this.
As I also indicated in the letter to the attorney general,
responding to the deputy's letter, when individuals come before
the grand jury and interpose privileges that then have to be
litigated, and are litigated in secret, that process is not
helpful to the investigation and to its speed.
QUESTION: If I could follow-up, Judge Starr...
STARR: I cannot comment with respect to what the
investigation has yielded up. This is -- there is a grand jury
in this building. This is a process that's protected by law, and
we're very mindful of the need to protect the rights of
individuals because one of the things a grand jury is to do is
to exonerate those who are innocent, and to try to do that as
promptly as we can. And that's what we are trying to do.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do you think that you're give (ph)
(OFF- MIKE) finish a preliminary report by May? There's been
reports that (OFF-MIKE). (OFF-MIKE) see yourself going much
STARR: I'm just not going to comment at all on the timing
with respect to any obligations that we have under the statute.
QUESTION: Mr. Starr...
QUESTION: Mr. Starr..
STARR: Yes, back there.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the Paula Jones
STARR: I'm sorry. Excuse me. I've recognized this person
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Paula Jones of her decision to appeal
and how that might or not affect your case?
STARR: Well, as I have said from the outset, and I think as
the judge has made clear in Arkansas -- as Judge Wright has made
clear -- this matter is separate and independent of anything
that happens in the civil litigation.
We are charged by the attorney general of the United
States with investigating whether criminal offenses occurred in
civil litigation. Those offenses -- and there is a presumption
of innocence -- but those offenses that have been identified by
the attorney general of the United States are serious offenses,
and you know what they are and we're moving quickly to assess
QUESTION: Judge Starr, you've come under a lot of criticism
(OFF-MIKE) Richard Mellon Scaife. The letter last week made a
reference to Mr. Scaife (OFF-MIKE). Your decision that you've
announced today, what role (OFF-MIKE) the fact that your
investigation is (OFF-MIKE) as well as the David Hale
accusations? What role did any of that play in your decision to
now announce after (OFF-MIKE)?
STARR: Well, first of all, let me say that with respect to
the individual who you have named, I have never met him, I have
never talked to him, I have had no arrangement -- implicit,
explicit, direct or indirect -- with him.
I am aware of the commentary with respect to the relationship
and individuals will come their own conclusions about that. But
I had to make an assessment in light of my commitment to the
university, and I felt that I had a stewardship, fiduciary duty
to the university.
And this is not of new standing that it was my view and has
been my view that I owe it to the university to either be there
or, if I can't be there, to say that and for them to come to
their conclusion collaboratively with me.
And as a result of those -- I'm sorry about the noise. But
as a result of those collaborative discussions, I came to a
decision. And it's actually two decisions.
And I've set those forth in the letter. And the
letter, by the way, will be publicly available as well.
QUESTION: Judge Starr...
QUESTION: This entire event is a little unusual. We're used
to talking to you at your driveway in the mornings.
QUESTION: Is this part of your effort to try to communicate
better with the American people? And do you feel that you've
done a poor job in that regard up to this point?
(UNKNOWN): You're doing a great job.
STARR: Thank you. Well, I have frequently said that the
Office of Independent Counsel is unique. It does not have a
public information office. Those of you who cover the Justice
Department know full well you can go to an office, public
information is available. It was my decision early on in this
investigation to build upon what Bob Fiske had very ably done,
including the mechanisms that he had in place, which was no
public information officer.
And I think as time goes along, I have become increasingly
sensitized to the need to have a public information function and
to provide information, and especially, as I have said in recent
weeks, especially to respond when there is misinformation.
QUESTION: Judge Starr, given the magnitude of the job and
STARR: Are the Orioles in town? What's Tim doing here?
QUESTION: ... given the magnitude of the job and how time
consuming it has become, some of your critics have suggested
that you really should cut your ties with Kirkland & Ellis. And
I know you're devoting full time to this, but to the exclusion
of all other interests, perhaps (OFF-MIKE) here.
STARR: Yes. I'm one who believes in moral commitments. And
I'm living up to those commitments at the same time as devoting
full time, and I think if you see my timesheets, you will see
how I am devoting my time, which is more than full time, to this
investigation. But I do...
QUESTION: Are you going to show us your timesheets?
STARR: I'm reminded of Judge Bell's deciding to show all
sorts of things back in 1977. But, no, we are making
information publicly available as to the amount of time that I
am spending on this investigation.
Let me just say, one of the issues with respect to
the independent counsel mechanism is it ends up personalizing
issues that I think are unfortunate and corrosive of values of
the rule of law. That it is one individual and then individuals
who may be the subject of the investigation.
And what I said before the first indictment was returned in
Arkansas, is that I think it vitally important to the appearance
of justice that any independent counsel with, especially as ours
are, wide-ranging responsibilities with our jurisdiction having
been expanded, to put in place mechanisms to protect the
decision making process, and to guard against arbitrariness,
caprice, the whim of one individual.
We have those mechanisms in place. Those are career
prosecutors who work with me, who follow very faithfully and
scrupulously Justice Department policy. You've heard -- many of
you have heard me trumpet. But with all sincerity and
enthusiasm, the great talents and the great accomplishments
before they ever became part of the Office of Independent
Counsel of many Justice Department prosecutors, two of whom won
the John Marshall award for top trial lawyer in the Justice
Department -- that is the kind of mechanism that we've tried to
build including an indictment review process that is helpful in
providing that assurance. Thank you very much.